Having a solid mechanic and pit setup for a cyclocross race is not just a luxury; it can be the difference between finishing a race and grinding your bike and components into complete oblivion. The art to making the most of a pit lies in being prepared and ready for anything. Here are some things to consider before the mud, dust, or snow starts flying.
For those who don’t have a “B” bike, an extra wheelset will enable you to replace a crashed wheel or be ready to go with different tires for changing conditions. Keep in mind when selecting backups, however, that rim widths can vary and require brake adjustments that you or your mechanic might not have time to do.
In the heat of battle, it can be easy to forget your manners. If you or your mechanic is new to the pit, being prepared, organized, and polite are probably the three most critical considerations for success. Pay attention to the location of other mechanics and racers, and avoid dropping bikes into oncoming bikes during a swap. Part of the appeal of ’cross is the fun atmosphere, so lighten up, and take every opportunity to learn from the veterans.
Tools of the ER
Just as a surgeon needs the right implements for surgery, a ’cross race mechanic relies on specific tools to meet the special demands of this kind of racing. Here are some of the tools you wouldn’t want to be without.
- Chain tool
- Full complement of hex wrenches
- Torx wrenches for rotors
- Box-end wrenches
- Metric adjustable wrench
- Torque wrench for the carbon bits
- Cable cutters
- Needle-nose pliers
- Spoke wrenches
Having a well stocked small-parts bin is crucial too. Zip ties, electrical tape, and a slew of nuts and bolts can save a race. Chain links, chainring bolts, brake pads, and a derailleur hanger specific to your bike(s) are also the sorts of things that will make riders write you into their will, they’ll be so grateful.
However, the most important tool of all is lube. A good aerosol lube will get into tough-to-reach shifter internals and derailleur pivots better than a drip bottle, and if you have access to a pressure washer, you’re going to want to avoid sending a “dry” bike back out on the course. Keeping the bike parts moving is the name of the game.
Don’t forget to bring some warm clothes to change into post race, as well as food, a cooler full of refreshments, and some moral support in the form of family, friends, or a trusted psychiatrist.
The “B” Bike
Having an extra rig can keep you racing if your “A” bike has a mechanical failure or is just too muddied up to ride. Your “B” bike will be the Best Bike if called upon during a race. It might be that you held on to the first bike you raced ’cross on, or maybe you’re lucky enough to have duplicate racing machines, but having something else to ride will give your mechanic a chance to make repairs on your primary race bike while you keep the laps going. It’s important to have both bikes set up so that the fit is close in order to eliminate any handling issues that might throw you off your game.